Every city and town in Missouri should have the same rules for flavored tobacco sales | Opinion

As a convenience store owner in Raytown with plans to expand into Kansas City, I’ve been proudly serving my community through my stores, Kay-Bee’s, for the past decade. The proposed House Bill 2060 now in Jefferson City, which would establish uniform and statewide policy for retail tobacco and vaping sales, holds significant importance for me and countless other retailers across the state.

The issue at hand is the growing trend of local ordinances, such as those proposed in Columbia and Kansas City in 2021, that seek to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products. While the intention behind these ordinances may be well-meaning, their implementation threatens to have dire consequences for businesses like mine and the communities we serve.

Let me provide some context: My stores are not just tobacco retailers — they are hubs of community activity where customers come to purchase groceries, snacks, beverages and, yes, tobacco. On average, I conduct about 500 transactions per day, and approximately 1 in every 5 customers buys tobacco, often alongside other items. In fact, tobacco sales account for a significant portion — 30% to 40% — of my overall revenue.

If local laws restrict my ability to sell tobacco, it wouldn’t just impact that aspect of my business — it would jeopardize the entire operation. Losing one-fifth of my customer base to neighboring cities with less restrictive regulations could spell disaster for Kay-Bee’s and similar establishments statewide.

This is why the passage of H.B. 2060 is critical. By establishing uniform and statewide policy for retail tobacco and vaping sales, this bill would preempt local ordinances that threaten to cripple businesses like mine. It would ensure that retailers across Missouri operate under consistent regulations, providing a level playing field and protecting consumer choice.

Furthermore, as someone who has been deeply rooted in the Kansas City community for the past decade, I understand the importance of adapting to changing times while still serving the needs of our residents. H.B. 2060 strikes the right balance between public health concerns and economic viability, allowing businesses like mine to continue serving our communities while addressing legitimate health considerations.

As I prepare to open my third store in Kansas City, just minutes away from my existing locations in Raytown, the importance of statewide preemption cannot be overstated. It’s not just about protecting my business — it’s about preserving the economic vitality of our communities and ensuring that consumers have access to the products they choose.

I urge Missouri lawmakers to support H.B. 2060 and stand up for small businesses like mine. Let’s work together to safeguard our communities, support local retailers and uphold the principles of consumer choice and economic freedom.

Kevin Bhamani owns Kay-Bee’s convenience stores in Raytown.